THE AUCTION IS A MINI-THEATRE, full of performance and artistry. It is also a machine of many moving parts – the synchronisation of which requires an understanding and trust between agent and auctioneer. Sarah Bell caught up with Gavin Croft of BresicWhitney Auction Services in Sydney to frame up the strategy and the showmanship of high-performance auctioneering.
GAVIN CROFT has spent the past 16 years mastering the craft of the auction from the perspective of both the agent and the auctioneer. Communicating a highly advanced level of knowledge and confidence in all aspects of auction, Gavin is both auction coach and auctioneer of choice to many of real estate’s leading agents.
“Timing, decision-making and strategy in an auction are all subjective. But these elements – and how an agent executes them – can vary the sale price by five to ten per cent. When I work with agents, we aim to develop critical thinking skills around the auction so that the right course of action can be taken during the execution of a call,” says Gavin.
“Executing an auction is a public event and agents are on show to potential vendors. I’m aware of that, and so the relationship between the agent and auctioneer has to be geared towards demonstrating an outstanding process, as well as a result.”
For agents seeking a competitive advantage in the marketplace, an auction listing is leverage to discover listing opportunities. It provides the consumer with the confidence of a highly skilled process and outcome, compared with a traditional letterbox drop stating that the property sold above reserve.
As Gavin succinctly puts it, “For potential vendors, actions speak louder than words.”
The actions that Gavin refers to are skilled tactical manoeuvres that can be learned in theory but must also be honed in practice. Gavin’s method and the relationships he develops with agents continue after an auction event to build knowledge, build trust and build instinct between the two.
“All auctions are videoed and critiqued with an agent afterwards so that we can see and understand the impact of our decisions,” says Gavin. “If we are to develop a superior understanding of the auction craft and how to execute in the heat of the theatre that is an auction call, we need to reflect on all aspects of the auction.”
The aspects of an auction for review include, but are not limited to, engagement, rhythm, control and flow of bidding, handling objections, use of the vendor bid, entertainment ability, and understanding and execution of the auction legalities.
The agent and auctioneer have different roles on the day, but the responsibility of representing someone’s biggest asset is not to be taken lightly. Much of the success of any auction depends on the pre-game.
“An agent needs to understand that the buyer and the vendor have responsibilities on auction day too; one of the most important roles that an agent has in preparation for the day is to qualify that the buyers and the vendor each understand their position in the process. Based on the insight from the marketing agent, we confirm our strategy for the auction with the vendor in the week before the calling,” says Gavin.
“Throughout the campaign, agents must prevail upon buyers that it is their responsibility to get themselves into a position to bid on an unconditional basis and to prepare themselves mentally and financially to do so in a competitive environment.”
“Once I, as the auctioneer, arrive at the property, I like to mingle before the auction and introduce myself to the registered parties. I need to be acutely aware of who they are. Their body language at this introduction is often indicative of their behaviour at the auction.
“My introduction to the crowd is short and punchy, and most importantly introduces the sales agent. I get down to business quickly, but carefully plant three or four unique benefits of the home in the minds of prospective buyers.
“Next, I will harness the energy of the room. I ensure bidders are gathered round like Christmas carollers and everyone can see one another. This is important for later when things heat up.”
Auctions are a show, but they are also serious business and a matter of grave importance to the parties hoping to transact. Auction day is an artistry of weaving visual imagery, likeability and candour through the control and strategy of competitive psychology.
At the thousands of auctions that Gavin has attended from the vantage of an agent, auctioneer, buyer and seller, he says, “It is an emotional experience, and there are key moments in the proceedings when the timing is the difference between zero and an extra $50,000 – like stating when the reserve has been reached, bidding on behalf of the vendor if necessary to maintain control and making quick decisions about which rises to accept when a bidding war erupts.”
High emotional intelligence and overall likeability are important. So is the rhythm and momentum of the auction.
During an auction call, according to Gavin, the agent’s role is to stand slightly behind and to the side of an auctioneer so that they can take a survey, read their buyers and take action or show restraint, depending on the course of the auction.
“Securing the premium result is about understanding competitive psychology and reading the mood of the room effectively. It’s about unlocking potential in rapid time – most auctions run for less than 15 minutes,” says Gavin.
“The key to unlocking extra value in a property can be clocking that pair of eyebrows up the back, sensing the rolled-up piece of paper springing into the air again and then letting nature take its course when two bidders go at it with stiff determination.”
The symbiosis of agent and auctioneer is at the forefront of vendor scrutiny and, to place their faith in agent or auctioneer, they need to sense a relationship of absolute trust.
“During the campaign, I take the time to meet with the vendor and understand their needs. Every vendor is different and needs to be treated accordingly. The sale of a property is often an emotional time for the vendor, so I am sure to support the feedback and marketing progress of the agent as well as to discuss my role as auctioneer, the process and the different strategies I might adopt during the auction,” says Gavin.
The understanding and trust in the agent-auctioneer dynamic will give a vendor the confidence “to ‘let go’ and know that, no matter what happens, we have a plan that will ensure the highest possible price”. As Gavin explains, “the cake has been baked over the last four weeks [of the campaign]; it’s my job to put the icing on it”.